If you want to ensure that you never reach your goals, do exactly what I’ve been doing: let your life be taken over by excuses.
On July 4, I ran the local Firecracker 4-Miler race in my hometown for the second year. Despite the fact that last year’s event was my very first race ever, and that it was the exact same course and we were experiencing very similar weather (hot and humid!), I showed absolutely no improvement from last year. In fact, I came in at almost exactly the same time, to the second. I struggled from start to finish, and couldn’t keep myself from stopping to catch my breath or surreptitiously take a break to “tie my sneakers” during the race.
As I was beating myself up afterwards, and trying to come up with excuses for not achieving what I thought would be an easy goal for me — beating last year’s time — I couldn’t help the niggling feeling that I was simply trying to not take responsibility for not working hard enough. All this time, I’ve been going out on 2 or 3 mile runs here and there. I wasn’t being consistent — sometimes weeks would pass without running at all — and I wasn’t exactly adhering to any of the advice I was skimming in my monthly issue of Runner’s World or any of my countless running-related Google searches about how to improve my speed or perform better on race day.
In short, I started to think about how I’ve been making excuses and only doing things “halfway” for quite some time…and how running is only one example.
It sometimes takes months for me to send out a fresh batch of article pitches to my dream magazines. I’m constantly telling myself I’ll e-mail that editor “tomorrow,” or finish that story query “after I do more research.” But then I end up convincing myself that it’s a stupid idea, or the editor is “just going to ignore me, anyway,” so it never actually gets done. Meanwhile, I always make promises to myself about blogging more often, since it’s something I love to do…but take one look at my past posting history and you’ll see that I can’t seem to manage more than one post a month.
When it comes to Weight Watchers, my attempts to reach my goal of 100 pounds lost are quite laughable. I’m only casually counting POINTS, and I’m doing way more guesstimating than ever. I still measure out everyday staples like 3/4 cup of cereal, but then when it comes time to enjoy some frozen yogurt after dinner, I somehow seem to forget where the measuring cups are located, because “I worked out today, so I deserve a treat.” I’ve also been allowing myself a few-too-many binges on weekends, from extra glasses of wine to munching handfuls of Angie’s Kettle Corn on the beach. That excuse is an easy one: “It’s the weekend!”
For months, I have been putting in shorter and shorter workouts (when I’m not in kickboxing class, that is), justifying their brevity with classic excuses like “I don’t have time.”
But then I wonder why I’m never landing those writing assignments, why the scale won’t budge, and why my fitness level (or ability to run a 4-miler without wanting to die!) has completely plateaued.
So, I decided to do something to take down the Excuses Monster once and for all. I decided to start by choosing one goal — in this case, being a better runner — and not allowing any more excuses.
I’m proud to report that I have chosen quite a lofty goal, and for the past three weeks, have been diligently working towards making it a reality. With no excuses!
It started with stumbling upon some race recaps on running blogs about the Disney Princess Half Marathon in Feb. 2013, and knowing that it was something I absolutely, positively had to do. I have harbored a deep-seated Disney obsession since I was in diapers, and running through the Magic Kingdom would be a dream come true. I just have to do it.
That’s right. I am going to run a half marathon.
Before I convinced myself that “I’m not good enough, fast enough, experienced enough, etc. to run a half marathon,” I set out in search of a training plan and for the past three weeks have been running 5 times a week, with mileage ranging from 2 miles to 6 miles. I invested in a Dry-Erase board to chart my monthly training runs, and I became a member of the Daily Mile to track my progress on-line. I created a little inspiration corner in my office with photos, brochures of races I want to run, medals, and even a painting my sister made of me crossing the finish line, and I use them as a daily reminder of how much I want to reach this goal.
And it’s already paying off. I competed once again in the Downtown Westfield 5k and Pizza Extravaganza, and the race that took me 33:03 last year only took 29:15. It wasn’t easy, and the course was incredibly hilly, but I didn’t once feel the need to stop. I felt comfortable and confident, because I knew, deep down, that I had put in the work…and wasn’t letting anything stand in my way.
There are no end to the excuses I could make to talk myself out of training for a 13 mile run — especially when the longest race I’ve ever participated in was a measly three miles. Aside from the physical agony and very real possibility of me not making it to the finish line, it’s out of state and extremely expensive…and basically another excuse for me to take a vacation.
But if I’m ever going to move forward, whether it’s in my writing career, weight loss, or fledgling attempts at running, I have got to stop talking myself out of everything…and cheating myself out of my own happiness.
Have you ever made up excuses or talked yourself out of doing something you really wanted to do?